Kakanien – New Homelands

Speech series at Vienna’s Kasino am Schwarzenbergplatz.

More then twenty years have passed since the autumn of 1989, when Austria ceased to be a small and insignificant state on the eastern periphery of the so-called free world. EU enlargement to the east has seen Austria move even more decidedly away from the edge towards the centre of the European map.

Kakanien - New Republic of the Poets

But does this make it significant? The creation of an economic area does not automatically give rise to a cultural area overnight; the removal of passport checks alone does not expand the mind. What makes a modern state significant then? The highest gross domestic product possible? The possession of nuclear warheads? A leading cultural role?<

The Kakanien project is based on the premise that in order to become significant it is necessary to reconcile a range of perspectives, promote cultural exchange and encourage networking with neighbouring countries. After all, the integration of new states is reminiscent of a previous order; seven of the twelve new EU members were once part of the Danube Monarchy. The newly regulated neighbouring relations with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania evoke a particular ambience within the walls of places such as the Burgtheater, echoing a time that puts the scale of such cultural temples firmly in perspective.

Robert Musil’s Kakania was more than merely a tired, repressive and war-thirsty giant bureaucratic machinery. Even in its final throes the dual monarchy produced great poets and boasted a flourishing cultural life that shaped and influenced the entire Danube region. The new economic area thus also needs an intellectual organ at its side, a newly founded republic of poets.

A series of speeches by renowned writers is to lay the foundation for this endeavour.  Each month over the course of a year, a guest from Austria’s intellectual neighbourhood will deliver a speech at the Kasino am Schwarzenbergplatz. These speeches will deal with intellectual similarities and differences, cultural clashes and synergies, and ethical demands and visions that arise as a result of the new neighbourhood constellation.  Joachim Meyerhoff kicks off the series Kakanien – New Homelands by adding a very personal touch to the event: The German author and actor, who is a member of Vienna’s Burgtheater ensemble, presents a text composed especially for this occasion, reflecting on the notion of “Homeland” as seen by an author from the Kakanian region. Philipp Hauß, Caroline Peters and Nicholas Ofczarek will be responsible for the next New Homelands event.

One of the primary objectives of ERSTE Foundation is to form partnerships in Central and South Eastern Europe to foster integration at various levels, whether it be from a political, social or cultural perspective. An essential aspect of the Kakanien – New Homelands project is to provide those taking part in this series of events held in Vienna – in their role as representatives of their nations’ intellectual capital – with the opportunity to encourage public discourse in their respective home countries.

All of these countries are very young democracies and their societies are still in a state of flux. Values such as freedom of expression, tolerance and integration are only just emerging and must contend with radical counter tendencies such as nationalism, prejudices and dictatorial ideas. Social challenges are rarely dealt with critically in public debate. To initiate an open discourse in these countries it is essential to create a kind of “mirroring” effect, reflecting the activities taking place at the Vienna Burgtheater. Most Central and South Eastern European countries have barely any forums or platforms for social-political exchange on European topics.

The Burgtheater invites its guests to actively participate in shaping this reciprocity and to make use of their networks, since they are best familiar with the current situations in their countries. In addition, ERSTE Foundation will activate and involve its regional and cross-regional partners and networks to bolster this effort. Regional activities will be developed according to the respective status quo of the countries and their societies. International PR work is an integral component of the project; Die Presse is the media partner.

Kakanien: New Homelands is a continuation of the series Kakanien: New Republic of the Poets and Kakanien Reloaded.